Growling in the Mountain: Tobacco Roots’ highest peak proves difficult | Wild montana



Bask in the serenity of Hollowtop Lake before the forced walk to Hollowtop Mountain.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard


As the late great comedian Norm Macdonald said, “I don’t want to get too political.

But my cantankerous alter ego will say it anyway. Sometimes I think all the outdoor activities I do are actually just disguised work.

Hollow lake

Allison Hendryx borrows my camera for 10 seconds and takes the best photo of the trip.

Allison Hendryx

Take this last weekend. I was minding my own business, trying to take a few days off from the hustle and bustle of the news cycle, and my friend Allie suggests we go to Tobacco Roots and climb its highest peak, Hollowtop Mountain, 10 604 feet high.

Maybe something quiet will do, I say. We could hang a few fish in the mouth, let them go, that sort of thing.

Milky Way

Plain shot of Milky Way from Hollowtop Lake.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard

No, she said. Let’s carry really big backpacks and sleep near the stars and climb the big mountain. Fall colors, she said.

This is how they get you this time of year.

She asks how my knees are. They are great, I say. I haven’t been in too much pain since the last time we climbed a big mountain.


From the summit of Hollowtop Mountain, Allison Hendryx will more than likely choose another summit to drag me against my will at a later date.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard

“Oh, good,” she replies.

We walk, we smell the colors of autumn, we fish, we set up camp. In the tent that evening, I see that there are still a few lakes around – it’s not too late for some fun tomorrow. We can fish and come home for supper, I said.

Tomorrow we climb the mountain, she reminds me, and tell the story of a bear eating a guy. She sleeps. I lay awake listening to the twigs snap.

Hollowtop Lake Fishing

Allison Hendryx’s cast is reflected on the surface of Hollowtop Lake, and I reflect on the wrong choice I made when I left my couch.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard

There’s the way people climb Hollowtop, and then there’s the way we do it. People follow the trail connecting the lakes and walk towards a simple open bowl up to the saddle. I expect them to have a good time.

We follow the path of most resistance, I guess to count the number of trees fallen into the tobacco roots.

“Do you want to see a fallen tree?” ” I say. “You should meet my ex-wife.”


The sight that awaits those who gamble their lives atop Hollowtop Mountain.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard

Reaching a ridge no human has ever set foot on, we slowly turn to false peaks from afar, passing endless boulder fields.

“Do you want to see a field of boulders?” ” I say. “You should meet my ex-wife.”

I don’t have an ex-wife, but being really funny and cantankerous helps me take my mind off things.

The summit of Hollowtop is a lunar landscape. It’s sad, and there’s not a lot of oxygen up there.

Throw in the glare

Allison Hendryx is having so much fun fishing, it’s a wonder she wants to embark on a grueling bushwack high on a mountain. But there you have it.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard

We hurriedly left the cold wind behind us and returned by the healthy route. Of course, the beating is not over. I am attacked by hay fever, my eyes are crying and swelling.

I think Allie smiles, but I can’t see for sure through my tears.

We tidy up camp and travel a mile and a half on the trail before the familiar crunch in my knees is replaced by a moan.

Hollow lake

Near the camp at Hollowtop Lake. There were fish, but they weren’t biting.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard

“How are you?” Allie asks.

“Yes,” I whimper, and push my way the last few miles to the one-legged, half-blind car, feigning self-respect.

It’s climbing mountains for you. I guess I’ll do it again next week.


Allison Hendryx leaves me in the dust on the way down Hollowtop Mountain, as usual.

Michael Cast, The Montana Standard



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